Friday, June 15, 2018

Five Myths on Sun Safety

Skin cancer affects more than one million people every year. It is a big deal, especially to farmers who have no choice, but to spend a majority of their time outside. I have a husband with red hair and incredibly fair, freckly skin, so sun safety is something I think about often. I just wish I could get him to think about it half as much as I do! Here are five of the most common myths I have heard him try to get past me.

Myth #1 - Skin cancer comes from the big burns.
Research has shown that skin cancer, in fact, comes from cumulative sun exposure. Sun safety measures should be practiced each and every time you are exposed to the sun.

Myth #2 - Applying sunscreen will protect me all day.
While a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15 is recommended, it only means you are protected from a reaction to the sun's effects 15 times longer than without the sunscreen. Make sure you are reapplying as directed on the bottle, and if you are sweating, check to see if the type you have is water-proof.

Myth #3 - My baseball cap is all the sun protection I need.
Unfortunately a baseball cap doesn't do a good job of shading vulnerable areas on the ears, temples, face and neck. Wide-brimmed hats are a better option when talking about sun safety.

Myth #4 - All sunglasses are created equal.
When you buy your glasses look for the tiny peel off label on one of the lenses. It should tell you the UV rating of the glasses. Look for a rating of 100.

Myth #5 - I only have to worry about sun protection on sunny days.
I live in Wisconsin. I can tell you some of my worst sun burns came on days I wasn't thinking about sun at all, like on a cloudy, snowy January day. Granted I usually only ended up with sunburn on my face, and maybe the backs of my hands depending on if the outside temperature allowed me to take off my gloves. Sun protection should be a consideration each and every day, cloudy or sunny.

What tips or tricks do you have for protecting yourself or those you love from the harmful effects of the sun? I would love to add them to my constant nagging reminders for my husband!

Source: Iowa State Extension, Remember Sun Safety in the Field

Friday, June 8, 2018

No Secrets to Excellence in Genetics and Reproduction

GENEX recently named their 2017 Excellence in Genetics & Reproduction award winners. In interviews with the award recipients, we learned there really are no secrets to this type of success. The two reasons behind this? The first is a huge combination of factors are at play when it comes to reproductive excellence. The second is because farmers are so willing to share what they are doing to help others. Read on to learn more about this year's winners!
Soon after the parlor was built in 2000, owners Tim and Penny Holmes were struggling with a 15‑20% pregnancy rate. Knowing they could do better, they brought in experts to improve their game, and they hit it out of the park!

Today, Tim and Penny, along with their son Travis, milk 400 cows in a double-8 parallel parlor. Their herd provides a daily average of 94 pounds of milk per cow with 4.0% Fat and 3.1% Protein, milking three times per day. If those numbers and a 107,000 somatic cell count don’t get your attention, then their impressive 40% cow pregnancy rate and 60% first service cow conception rate should.

The Holmesville Dairy team, consisting of the owners, herdsman, milking crew, veterinarian, nutritionist, A.I. company and business consultant have been together for over 10 years. Tim attributes most of their reproductive success to team longevity. “It is a team effort that makes the difference,” explains Tim. Each player on the team plays an important part in the farm’s reproductive success. “It is the
consistency that is key.”

When asked what makes the reproduction program at Maple Ridge Dairy successful, herdsman
Michael Martin jokes, “We don’t want to give away all our secrets!”

All kidding aside, Dan Preuss, a GENEX Reproductive Program Senior Technician (also known as Breeder Man Dan) who has bred cows at the dairy for 11 years, explains that it comes down to good cow management. “The people, the compliance … it all leads to a really strong repro program here.”

“We stick to the protocols,” adds herdsperson Jami Schultze. “Compliance is very important to us. We try to get as close to 100% compliance as possible.”

For 2017, the dairy averaged a 39% pregnancy rate on cows with 87% pregnant by 150 days in milk. This was achieved while the top 25% of first lactation cows received a first service to GenChoice™ sexed semen and the bottom 40% of cows were bred with beef semen.

Plymouth Dairy, owned by the Feuerhelm family, was founded in 1999 with the first cows milked in August 2000. Over the years, the dairy has expanded to about 3,500 head. The growth, expansion and strong reproduction program are all the result of teamwork.

There are a lot of moving parts to make a dairy operation function well. Plymouth Dairy promotes a constructive culture of teamwork, creating one of the best teams of owners, managers, herdsmen, veterinarians, nutritionists, technicians and consultants. Each member of the team has a role and responsibility and is encouraged to share new ideas for the betterment of the dairy. GENEX has
played a part on the team for nearly 18 years, bringing value in the form of genetics, service and expertise.

The dairy recorded a 12-month average 36% pregnancy rate for 2017 and boasted a 78% heat detection rate as well. They also recently increased sexed semen use in lactating cows and have seen tremendous results. On average, 87% of cows were pregnant by 150 Days in Milk which was aided by a first service conception of 52%, all while averaging 87 pounds of milk per day.

Add caption

If asked how the team at Mar-Bec Dairy has made the operation better for cows, he’ll say they learned from others. They learned about and implemented tunnel ventilation, added more fans, switched mattresses, made stalls wider and longer, and applied preventive measures like liming/bedding every other day.

If asked how the team planned the calf care facility built in 2013, he’ll say they gained ideas from visiting other dairies. Those ideas, coupled with excellent calf care, have contributed to a low calf death loss rate; annually, they lose less than one‑third of 1% of calves.

In short, education is valued. Both Marty and his son Jonathon, a partner in the LLC, received their
educations at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. Now, Marty is in his sixth year serving on the board of directors for the Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin, whose mission is “to share ideas, solutions, resources and experiences that help dairy producers succeed.”

With generations of focus on female fertility and longevity, the dairy achieved a 42% average pregnancy rate on heifers for the year along with a 61% first service conception rate and 62% sexed
semen conception rate.

A-OK Farms owner, Mark Breunig and Herdsman David Muder continuously look for ways to improve their 450-cow dairy. A change was recently made in the type of sand used for bedding, and last year a separator was installed to reclaim that sand. The near future calls for tunnel ventilation to be added to the barns.

The team’s constant search for improvement areas have led to a 46% heifer pregnancy rate and 57%
first service conception rate. All heifers are genomically tested which allows the team to cull the ones
with the lowest genetic merit. They then sort the remaining top 75% to be bred to sexed semen for two services before conventional semen is used. The bottom 25% receive conventional semen.

In addition to a great crew of 13 on-farm employees, quarterly team meetings are held with the nutritionist, veterinarian and GENEX Account Manager to focus on ways the farm can improve. Each team member plays a valuable role in the farm’s success. “If we are missing a link, it just won’t work,” explains Mark. One of the ideas that recently came from a team meeting was just-in-time calving and the A-OK team likes the results. “Things here are always evolving, and that is how we like it,” Mark adds.

To learn more about what these farms are doing to increase their reproductive rates, turn to page 22 of our Horizons.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Getting the Boys Ready for the Camera

A few weeks ago I revisited a post I had written on picturing cows. Having assisted with the process many times got me to thinking about picturing our bulls. I use their photos all of the time on social media, flyers and advertisements, but I have never been present to see if it is any different. So I did a little checking, and as luck would have it, we were due to picture nine bulls in the middle of May. So I was off to our Ford barn for a morning of learning and observation.

The first thing I discovered actually occurred even before I made it to the barn. The genomic era has us picturing bulls at a younger age than in the past. This makes for a much easier and safer day. In the past, waiting to take photos of daughter-proven bulls meant their attitudes (and hormones) were in full swing. In fact, in order to provide an element of safety for the handler, a cage was built and mounted to the back of a tractor. The sire handler would ride inside of the cage and the bull would be walked to the area outside of the barn where the photos would be taken.

Which brings me to difference number one between picturing cows and our bulls.

1.  Bull photos are taken in the collection arena. Since we have the technology to add a scenic background to the photos, there is no need to take the bulls out of the environment they are used to. This adds to the safety element for everyone (bulls included) involved.

Since we export semen across the world, strict biosecurity protocols are in place. This brings me to differences two and three.

2.  In order to enter the Ford barn, individuals must shower, change clothes, suit up or a combination of the three. I was lucky enough to get a white disposable coverall suit to wear. Sorry, no pictures were available.😉 Those who work with the animals have clothes they keep in the locker room, and they change every day when they come to work.

3.  All of the supplies, from the boards that are used under the animal's feet, to the clippers and fitting sprays were bought specifically for the Ford barn and never leave the facility.

My last difference between bull and cow picturing became evident after I watched a couple of bulls go through the process. 

4.  With cow photos, we always have the same individual hold the animals. With our bull photos, a specific sire handler holds the bull. Since each bull has a handler, this also adds to the
safety and efficiency factors.

The process of picturing bulls went much more smoothly than I thought was possible. The animals were extremely calm and responded well to those setting their feet. I actually found the bulls I watched that day were better behaved than most of the cows I have assisted with. I attribute that to the fact the bulls are worked daily and are used to being led, whereas the cows we take photos of are commercial cows who aren't usually used to a halter. 
Here is a little time-lapse video to give you an idea of what takes place the day of bull picturing.

Thanks to Nate, Kenny, Luke, Andy, Jesse, Morgan and especially our talented photographer, Sarah Damrow, for allowing me to spend time observing.

Friday, May 18, 2018

The Future is Agriculture

As part of our commitment to the future of agriculture, each year GENEX awards scholarships to college students pursuing degrees in agriculture. GENEX, a part of Cooperative Resources International (CRI), awards college students who are actively involved on a member’s farm or ranch and exhibit a passion of leading the way for the agriculture industry.

The six recipients of this year’s CRI Collegiate Scholarship exemplify the drive, dedication and devotion that agriculture requires. Their response to what agriculture means to them is proof:

Students earning the $750 scholarship include: Jessica Schmitt of Fort Atkinson, Iowa; Lantz Adams of Laton, California; Matthew Grossman of Pittsville, Wisconsin; Donovan Buss of York, Nebraska; Bridger Gordon of Whitewood, South Dakota; and Erica Helmer of Plymouth, Wisconsin.

These applicants are a promise to a bright future in agriculture.

“We are proud to support youth who are interested in furthering their education and commitment to agriculture,” states Terri Dallas, Vice President of Communications. “Not only do these students understand the importance of agriculture; they are tremendous advocates for it as well.”

The hard work, passion and leadership skills needed for the agriculture industry is not lost on these students. In their applications they described opportunities that helped them grow, such as interning for a congressman in Washington D.C., volunteering on mission trips, leading FFA chapters and 4-H clubs, taking advanced placement classes to push themselves academically, spearheading educational events to spread agriculture awareness, and managing critical roles on the operations they work.

“These applicants are a promise to a bright future in agriculture,” states Terri. “Along with their exceptional leadership, the heart and determination they demonstrate sends a strong message that tomorrow’s agriculture is in good hands.”

Friday, May 11, 2018

Fertility: The New Normal

By Kim Egan, DVM, Director of Strategic Accounts, GENEX

The world of dairy is one of continuous improvement. Tight margins, expense of heifer rearing, and the drive to improve herd genetic potential have made excellent reproduction an even more important item on many farms. Over the last several years, much has been learned and implemented to improve cow comfort, nutrition, and health. Genetics, fertility-enhancing synchronization programs and market pressures have all had an impact as well. An article written in 2015 regarding reproductive goals is already out-of-date. Below are the top five items being tracked on dairies today and updated goals for reproductive performance given the advancements over the last few years.

1) Percent pregnant by 150 Days in Milk (DIM). It seems many of the herds we work with have exceeded the goal of 75% that we were looking at a few years ago. Confirming this, our Dairy Performance Navigator system shows the top 10% of herds by milk production out of 280 Holstein herds, each with over 500 cows, now average 81% of the herd pregnant by 150 DIM. GENEX Excellence in Reproduction Award winners for 2017 averaged 88% pregnant by 150 DIM. A new goal of >80% of cows pregnant by 150 DIM seems appropriate now.

2) 3-week pregnancy rate. Depending on the program your farm uses, the calculation of cows that are eligible to be bred may vary. Ultimately, the pregnancy rate is driven by conception rates and service rates. Factors that diminish estrus expression or detection or reduce conception will reduce the pregnancy rate. Many factors that affect reproductive success are shown below.
Holstein herds with 500 cows or more in our Dairy Performance Navigator℠ (DPN℠) program average 25% annual pregnancy rates, with the top 10% by cow pregnancy rate achieving an average of 34%. A good goal for 3-week pregnancy rate is now 30%.

3) Conception by breeding code, service number, semen type. Many herds are using sex-sorted semen in the lactating herd as well as their heifers, this frequently has lower conception than conventional semen. There are also differences in synchronization programs for first service and later services. It is best to track conception of differing breeding codes (ex: resynchronization versus heat detection) and semen types, so that if change in reproductive performance is desired, the areas can be monitored in relation to the goal and to historical performance. Good goals here would match the following: The top 10% of Holstein herd by cow pregnancy rate in our DPNprogram are achieving first service conception >45% in their lactating herds. For heifers, the Dairy Calf and Heifer Association gold standard for first service conception rate with sexed semen is 60%.  

4) Percent of heifers pregnant at 15-17 months old. This is still a favorite measure of the overall efficiency of the virgin heifer reproductive program. The range can be adjusted based on your voluntary waiting period, but should allow time for breeding and pregnancy diagnosis. Delays in moving heifers into the breeding pen or inadequate heat detection will reduce this percentage. Skipping the pregnancy examinations or missing data will also skew this data. Increased percentages reflect efficient use of days (or months) heifers are fed before freshening and return income to the dairy. Currently, the top 10% of Holstein herds by heifer pregnancy rate in our DPN
program are achieving 85% of heifers pregnant at 15-17 months, that is an excellent goal for any dairy farm.

5) Number of eligible animals beyond first service deadline not inseminated. Many farms are achieving 100% of animals (both cows and heifers) inseminated within 28 days of their voluntary waiting period. It is important to have a fixed goal by which all animals should be inseminated, yours may be different than 28 days or may include weight for the heifers. Animals removed from breeding pens and/or missed on synchronization programs may not be inseminated, reducing the service rate and reducing the dairy’s efficiency. The goal for animals beyond first service deadline not inseminated is zero.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Easy A.I. Steps for Added Success

With a lot of beef breeding projects in full swing and dairy farmers looking for additional efficiencies, I thought it would be a great time to talk about proper artificial insemination technique. Last year I posted about common A.I. mistakes, so today's topic is going to be on doing things correctly. Whether you are just learning or a seasoned veteran, check out this list! 

If you would prefer a more comprehensive evaluation of your A.I. technique, talk to your GENEX representative about the A.I. AccuCheck℠ program

Friday, April 27, 2018

Lights! Camera! Action! The Tale of a GENEX Casting Call

The scene began at the 2017 National Angus Convention in Fort Worth, Texas. GENEX put out a casting call for a bull. Breeders could send in their boy's portfolio for a chance to win a lease contract (8 by 10 glossy head shots were not required 😉).  

Over 50 aspiring GENEX sires applied, from there our team narrowed the cast of characters to five.

The final decision was a difficult one, and after much deliberation by our beef team, a selection was made.

1AN01436 CROCKETT is an outstanding combination of  phenotype, pedigree and EPDs and is backed by an outstanding dam and grandam that have been productive members of the Brown herd in Tennessee for many years.

CROCKETT is now available from a GENEX representative near you!

Friday, April 20, 2018

No More Guessing About How Your Cows Feel

Okay, I'll admit it. Sometimes I find myself staring at my cows, daydreaming. I am wondering what they are thinking, how they are feeling and how I could help them be both more comfortable and productive (I think the former would help the latter!). While we haven't figured out how to tap into a cow's thoughts quite yet, we now have the ability to better monitor their health, nutrition, reproductive status and comfort. Enter SCR Heatime®.

SCR Heatime® is an advanced cow monitoring system designed to collect and analyze data that can be used for individual cow management and immediate decision implementation related to breeding, cow health and ration formulation. These systems successfully deliver insights dairy producers need, when they need them.

Use SCR Heatime® to:
» Recognize sick cows much earlier, which reduces time spent watching cows to identify         those that are sick 
» Use rumination data to detect potential health concerns
» Avoid over-treating animals and track successful treatments» Identify stressors» See how cows adjust to feed changes» Identify more cows in heat and create a timeline for insemination» Reduce hormone dependency by 50-80%

The fantastic thing about purchasing a system from the team at GENEX is just that - the GENEX team! Count on our professional staff to provide installation, set-up, continued training and technical support.

For more on SCR Heatime®, visit our website or talk to your GENEX representative, and make daydreaming about how your cows feel a thing of the past.

Monday, April 9, 2018

April Jersey Sire Summary Highlights

15 Sires Added to Industry-Leading GENEX Jersey Lineup

1JE01054 ACHIEVER {3}, an exciting Avon son, leads the GENEX new releases at an impressive +803 for the Ideal Commercial Cow (ICC$) index, +710 Cheese Merit (CM$) and +210 JPI™. He has an exceptional +27.2 JUI™ while improving yield with a +541 Cheese Maximizer (ChMAX$) sub-index ranking. ACHIEVER {3} will add impressive longevity at +6.6 Productive Life (PL) while also improving component percentages. He is available in GenChoice™ sexed semen only.

1JE01073 HALL {4} is an early 1JE00922 RONALDO {3} son joining the lineup at +791 ICC$, +662 CM$ and +196 JPI™. Use HALL {4} to add production efficiency with a +628 ChMAX$ sub-index rank. He is +144 combined Fat & Protein (CFP) and over +1100 Milk. He is available in GenChoice™ semen only.
1JE01073 HALL {4}

1JE01047 ARENA {3} is another Avon son at +739 ICC$ and +651 CM$. He is extremely balanced with impressive rankings on all three sub-indexes, along with a +0.3 Daughter Pregnancy Rate (DPR), +29.2 JUI™ and +125 CFP. ARENA {3} is 91 BBR and available in GenChoice™ semen only.

1JE01041 KAZAN {3} is +735 ICC$ and +183 JPI™. This Avon son comes in at +594 CM$ and +127 CFP while maintaining +14.4 JUI™ and +0.3 DPR. KAZAN is GenChoice™ only.
1JE01069 AMPLIFY {3}, a new 1JE00892 VANDRELL {2} son is +709 ICC$, +666 CM$ and +194 JPI™. Use AMPLIFY {3} to add positive component percentages, improve udders (+19.3 JUI™) and daughter fertility (+0.4 DPR). He is 92 BBR and available in GenChoice™ semen only.

1JE01076 JACK BAUER {3} is an early 1JE00921 EUSEBIO {4} son debuting at +680 ICC$, +582 CM$ and +175 JPI™. He will add milk yield while siring daughters with impressive udders at +21.9 JUI™. JACK BAUER {3} is 92 BBR and available in GenChoice™ semen only.

1JE01046 FRESCA {3}
A group of Marlo sons were added to the lineup in 1JE01028 APPROACH {3} at +698 ICC$, 1JE01048 EVERLASTING {3} at +678 ICC$, 1JE01046 FRESCA {3} at +673 ICC$, 1JE01036 NORBERT {3} at +664 ICC$ and 1JE00970 STEPH {3} at +615 ICC$. All five will add impressive component yields, especially Fat while also improving udders with high JUI™ values. FRESCA {3} and NORBERT {3} are +590 and +576 CM$ respectively and are both available in GenChoice™ semen only.

Additional Highlights

1JE01057 CESPEDES {3} maintains his spot as an industry leader. This Marlo son carries an
impressive +215 JPI™ and +754 CM$ and is the ICC$ index leader at +841. CESPEDES {3} is an exceptional yield sire with +137 CFP while also possessing a positive DPR value. Use this sire to improve udders (+22.4 JUI™) and improve component percentages. CESPEDES {3} is 92 BBR and available in GenChoice™ semen only.

1JE00922 RONALDO {3} added early production daughters and ranks well at +769 ICC$, +645 CM$ and +194 JPI™. With over +1700 Milk and +158 CFP, RONALDO daughters are sure to add production.

Friday, April 6, 2018

April Holstein Sire Summary Highlights

New Sires for Creating Ideal Commercial Cows

Topping the lineup for the Ideal Commercial Cow (ICC$) index following the April proofs are a trio of outstanding sires in 1HO13023 MR WISCONSIN, 1HO12917 MIKE and 1HO11955 BEYOND. Just behind them is a trio of new releases all over +1100 ICC$.

The top new release according to the ICC$ index is 1HO12990 NET. This 1HO11643 DAMIEN son out of a Supershot is destined to impress with his +1113 ICC$ and +572 for the Production Efficiency (PREF$) sub-index, meaning he has genetics that result in high‑yielding cows with lower feed costs. NET also stands at +901 Lifetime Net Merit (LNM$), adds longevity (+8.2 Productive Life) and improves udders (+2.07 Udder Composite). He offers all-round calving ease too, with a low 6.2% Sire Calving Ease (SCE) and 3.6% Daughter Calving Ease (DCE).

1HO12990 NET

is an outcross by Barclay with an extremely balanced genetic profile: +1112 ICC$, +382 for the Health (HLTH$) sub-index and +862 LNM$. Use BEACHBOY to improve udders (+1.66 Udder Composite), moderate frame size and improve yield (+124 CFP). He adds daughter fertility (+2.7 Daughter Pregnancy Rate), extends longevity (+7.7 PL) and has a low 5.0% SCE. To top it off, he displays impressive values for the GENEX proprietary health traits at 108 Metritis (MTR) and 104 Subclinical Ketosis (SCK).

Rounding out the new releases over +1100 ICC$ is the new Jett son 1HO13415 TANZANITE. He debuts at +1113 ICC$ and +826 LNM$. This udder specialist is +2.18 Udder Composite (UDC) while packing in production at +131 CFP and +1817 Milk. With his 107 MTR, he’s also a good option for helping to manage the cost and impact associated with metritis in future generations.

New release 1HO13300 COOLIO is a Tesla son and a calving ease specialist at 5.4% SCE. He is +1087 ICC$ and the leader for the Fertility and Fitness (FYFT$) sub-index, which emphasizes genetics that result in optimal age at first calving, reduced days open and shorter calving intervals. His elite +4.0 Daughter Pregnancy Rate (DPR) is testament to that. COOLIO also comes in at +1.99 UDC while improving milk quality (+2.63 Somatic Cell Score).

1HO12996 KANZO is an impressive new sire with strong industry rankings. He debuts at +1066 for the Ideal Commercial Cow (ICC$) index, +953 Lifetime Net Merit (LNM$) and +2805 TPI®. This outcross sire, a DAMIEN out of a Josuper, is +151 CFP. He will sire daughters with impressive udders (+2.50 UDC) while moderating frame size. KANZO is available in GenChoice™ sexed semen only.

1HO13406 HAGAR is a new Ragen son. He is +1019 ICC$ and +864 LNM$ with an impressive +2.18 UDC. Use HAGAR with confidence in the heifer pens (6.4% SCE) while improving daughter fertility (+1.2 DPR) and adding longevity (+6.3 Productive Life).

A new bull at +955 ICC$ and +949 LNM$ is 1HO12965 RADICAL. This early 1HO11652 RADIUS son out of a Montross is known for production efficiency (+603 PREF$) with his +178 CFP and +112 Fat. Use RADICAL to improve component percentages while also siring daughters with extremely high and wide rear udders.

A new release Modesty, 1HO12986 RUSTIC is an extreme component yield sire that optimizes efficiency from trouble-free milking cows. He comes in at +921 ICC$, +193 for the Milking Ability (MABL$) sub-index and +117 Fat. Use RUSTIC to also improve udders at +1.99 UDC. Another new Modesty, 1HO13513 PURSUIT is an elite type and milk yield sire. He is +2.11 PTAT, +2.66 UDC and comes in at +1996 Milk with +141 CFP. This all comes in a calving ease package: +77 Calving Ability (CABL$), 5.4% SCE, 2.7% DCE.


Also joining the lineup is an early 1HO11670 GATEDANCER son in 1HO12966 RUMBLE. He is an elite type sire at +2.30 PTAT and +2.57 UDC. RUMBLE stands at +942 ICC$ and +2751 TPI® while also improving milk quality at +2.58 SCS.

1HO13424 SUBZERO, an early 1HO11959 WRENCH son, is +877 ICC$ and is a production and type specialist. SUBZERO debuts at +148 CFP while also sporting PTAT and UDC values over +2.00. SUBZERO is available in GenChoice™ sexed semen only.

In addition to these new releases, GENEX icon sire 1HO10396 CABRIOLET continues to
impress. Now with over 10,000 daughters, he stands at +953 ICC$ and +895 LNM$. This
extremely reliable sire can be used to add a balanced genetic profile with +154 CFP, positive
component percentages while moderating frame size. CABRIOLET is ideal for heifer pens as
the leader for the CABL$ sub-index.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Follow the Three Cs of Heat Detection

The most successful heat detection programs contain the three C's ...

Consistency refers to uniform marking in each pen. Uniformity is especially critical on dairies where groups of breeders work together or alternate between satellite operations. Consistency means marking each cow in one direction, using the livestock marker like an ink pen and not a battering ram, and applying enough product so the color is bright. When done with a pen, the breeder should be able to look down the row and see a consistent chalk color. They've then made finding heats the next day a little easier!
Concentration. One cannot have an off day when heat detecting. Your focus needs to be on each cow and whether you need to pay closer attention to her that day. Give emphasis to allowing cows more down time out of the head locks. Heat detectors can't afford to daydream. Concentrate, make good decisions and move on!
Commitment. Heat detection can't just be by chance. It takes a deliberate effort of observation and technique each and every day.
Breeders who are truly committed to excelling at heat detection are not satisfied with only finding those easy-money heats. If you haven't lifted a few tails or palpated a couple of questionable cows, you are probably having an off day.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Pendergrast Celebrates 50 Years of Providing Service

It all started with Midwest Breeders and the magic wand, and 50 years later Gary Pendergrast of Polo, Missouri, is still providing artificial insemination (A.I.) service.

Throughout this time, he’s seen many changes from ampules to straws and the innovation of sexed semen. A highlight of his career was working on the Lutalyse® trial many years ago; 115 heifers from a herd in his service area were used in this trial.

“I became an early proponent of synchronization due to my first-hand experience with that trial,” states Gary. “Synchronization was a gamechanger for the A.I. industry. I can breed so many more in one day than I even dreamed of 50 years ago.”

Over the years, he’s kept meticulous records of every breeding he’s ever done. In total, 71,000 cows and one buffalo make the list. “One buffalo?” you ask. Gary says he’s agreed to every A.I. project anyone has called him for, even when it was a buffalo.

Last May, Gary had open heart surgery and received strict doctor’s orders to not breed cows for 90 days. This marked the longest period in his life without breeding cows. Rest assured, he was back on day 90.

Gary is a self-proclaimed cattle engineer and thoroughly enjoys his work.

“By far, the best part of this industry is working with the people,” states Gary. “And as long as I’m able, I’ll continue to breed cows.”

And with a smile, he adds, “I think I should be good for another 20 years.”

Gary, thank you for your dedication to the A.I. industry.

Friday, March 2, 2018

Employees Are the Heart of Every Business - The GENEX Difference

Today is National Employee Appreciation Day. I have spent time in past posts giving you ideas on reducing your employee cull rate and ways you can show your employees how thankful you are for their hard work. Today I would like to highlight the heart of GENEX, our dedicated staff. We can say we don't need affirmation of our work, but, let's face it, it sure feels good when your boss lets you know how great you are! So today I bring you Huub te Plate, COO, in his address to the Annual Meeting on why GENEX is different.
Thank you for being service-oriented, reliable and down-to-earth and for possessing integrity and loyalty. You do make a difference to your customers. I routinely have people post on our Facebook page about the excellent service you provide. Phrases such as, "going above and beyond," "I've watched her work, and she is amazing at it" and "we consider him a friend" are commonplace when talking about GENEX employees.

Happy Employee Appreciation Day. I am honored to call you my co-workers!

Friday, February 23, 2018

Strategic Breeding: A Purpose for Every Pregnancy

By: Gwen Powers, Director of Strategic Accounts-Western U.S., GENEX

As the U.S. dairy industry continues to grow in total cow numbers (with fewer farms), the push for dairies to be more efficient is greater than ever. This is especially true in today’s constantly changing market. Therefore, many producers are applying strategic breeding protocols to better streamline their operations; this includes how they produce replacements and manage excess non-replacement calves.

The number of replacements a farm needs is determined by the cull rate or turnover rate and the average age at freshening. With adequate conception rates and some use of gendered semen a dairy likely produces excess replacements annually. This raises the question, “Does a farm need every pregnancy to be a dairy-sired calf?” Depending on the local market, beef-sired calves could generate a premium. Beef semen can be used on the herd in a strategic manner. For instance, beef semen can be used on lower genetic merit animals (as determined by parent average or a genomic test) so these later lactation cows are kept in production without generating replacement females.

Identifying which animals to breed with different semen types is one of the first steps in a strategic breeding program. What is the best way to sort females? Parent averages can be used but accuracy varies based on the herd’s record keeping. Custom indexes or performance data can also be factored in alongside parent averages. The more accurate tool, however, is genomic testing. When applying genomic test results to strategic breeding programs, producers can increase the genetic merit of their herds which in turn should increase production and create an all-round better cow base. Genomic testing confirms parentage. It also includes a number of traits that enable a producer to develop a baseline for the herd’s genetics and decide where to improve. Health traits have been a focus in recent years, as research has shown they heavily correlate with a healthier and more efficient cow. Genomic values are available for health traits – such as subclinical ketosis, metritis, and lameness – as well as indexes that combine all health traits.

Genomic testing can help identify which animals should be bred to different semen types based on genetic merit. It can also be used to identify potential donor females for embryo transfer programs and recipients as well. Targeted use of gendered, conventional, and beef semen ensures replacements only come from animals whose genetics the producer wishes to keep in the herd. Lower genetic animals, and usually later lactation cows, are bred with beef semen to keep them in production and maximize the value of their calves sold for beef.

One option for producers with multi-site operations who are looking to capitalize on efficient replacement distribution is to dedicate one site solely to crossbreds or F1s. This would mean replacements are generated from purebred females bred to an A.I. sire from a different dairy breed - either Holstein or Jersey semen (typically sexed) - to generate replacements for the crossbred site. These F1 animals have been known to be the best of both worlds in terms of milk production, components, and efficiency. The F1s could then be bred with beef semen to generate terminal beef cross calves that, in many cases, can be sold for a premium.

Embryos are another tool producers are adding to their breeding protocols in a variety of ways. With improved technologies, embryo transfer (ET) and in-vitro fertilization are becoming more accessible to commercial dairy operations. Additional management and precise recordkeeping is critical when adding ET technologies, but the benefits can be significant. Improved genetic merit can be achieved quicker by selecting high genetic merit donor females and transferring embryos into lower genetic merit recipients. F1 embryos are another option for sites that are interested in generating replacements without entering an elaborate crossbreeding scheme.

The implementation of a strategic breeding program is a hurdle that producers must overcome. Once the herd inventory is sorted based on parent averages, a custom index, genomic testing or specific criteria within lactations that a producer wishes to focus on, then animals are coded through a mating program to be bred to a certain type of semen. If the animals’ pedigrees are known, the mating program can also choose individual mating sires that limit inbreeding.

When making the change to a strategic breeding approach, it is important to consider the dairy’s individual goals and current marketplace. Once a strategy is created, it should be followed through long enough to see the results. In return, dairies can more efficiently utilize available technologies to maximize herd genetics and ultimately profitability.

If you need help developing your strategic breeding program, GENEX can help. Talk to your representative about our ProspectiveSM programa semen profit comparison tool, to get started.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Proprietary Traits-Genetic Improvement Through Data-Driven Innovation

You have hopefully heard that GENEX released an Ideal Commercial Cow (ICC$) index for Jerseys with the December 2017 sire summaries, and you may have noticed mention of two proprietary traits included in the index. So what are they and what do they measure? Read on as our U.S. Dairy Marketing Manager and Jersey farmer herself, Leah James, helps us explain.

GENEX has released Calf Survivability (CSRV) and Age at First Calving (AAFC) evaluations to
address critical areas of concern within the Jersey breed.

“CSRV brings awareness to genetics that instill hardiness and survivability in newborn calves,” explains Leah.

“AgSource Dairy data for a five-and-a-half-year period from January 2012 through July 2017 shows that 6.5% of Jersey calves died between 2 and 120 days of age,” adds Leah. “The new CSRV breeding value, included in the Sustainability subindex of the Ideal Commercial Cow index for Jerseys, aims to provide genetic selection to improve the survivability of Jersey calves.”

The CSRV breeding value, available on all GENEX sires, reflects the percent of female calves that survived past 120 days of age. The breeding value is set to a base of 100, meaning 100 is average. Expect about a 5.5% difference in calf survivability between daughters of a 105 CSRV bull and daughters of a 95 CSRV bull. CSRV has an 8.1% heritability.

The second trait, AAFC, highlights the importance of daughter fertility among Jersey cattle.

“In surveying some of our Jersey customers, it was clear that getting heifers calved in early is a point of focus, especially considering the negative trend for daughter fertility over the past 50+ years,” notes Leah. “AAFC aims to get heifers calved in early because that equals bottom‑line profit for the dairy.”

The AAFC breeding value is indicative of the heifer growing and maturing faster and being reproductively viable at a younger age. It is included within the Fertility sub-index of the Ideal Commercial Cow (ICC$) index for Jerseys.

The breeding value is set to a base of 100. Expect about a 44-day difference in age at first calving
between daughters of a 105 AAFC bull and daughters of a 95 AAFC bull. Heritability is at 18.7%.

All GENEX proprietary health traits are calculated by the CRI ICB using the CRI dairy research database, which includes:
› Genomic profiles
› On-farm records
› Real-time production values

The database continues to grow and currently includes over 54 million health records on nearly
GENEX proprietary traits are set to a base of 100, meaning a breeding value of 100 is average. 12 million cows.

Friday, February 9, 2018

The Answers to Your Most Asked Beef Synchronization Questions

While breeding season may be a bit away yet, it is the perfect time to evaluate your procedures and make decisions on protocols. Our Beef Marketing and Education Manager, Sarah Thorson, took a few minutes to answer some of the most frequently asking questions concerning synchronization protocols.

What is the best synchronization protocol for cows and heifers?
There isn’t an easy answer to this question. Yes, research suggests some protocols perform better than others, but just because research says it’s the best protocol, doesn’t necessarily make it the best protocol for your operation. I always advise people to ask themselves three questions before choosing a synchronization protocol:
› How many times am I willing to put the female through the chute?
› How much am I willing to spend on synchronization drugs?
› What are my expectations for results?
Once you know the answers to these questions you can objectively analyze which synchronization program is the best fit for your operation. No matter what the research or experts tell you, the best protocol for your operation is one that aligns with your goals and you are 100% confident you can perform perfectly from start to finish.

What criteria should I use to ensure females are good candidates for A.I.?
The answer depends if you are synchronizing heifers or cows.
Criteria for synchronizing heifers:
› Should have achieved at least 65% of mature body weight
› Minimum of 50% should have reproductive tract score of ≥ 4 at six weeks before breeding
If you don’t have a veterinarian in your area that offers reproductive tract scoring, don’t panic! You can achieve the same thing by visually observing your heifers for heat in the weeks and months leading up to breeding. You want to observe at least 50% are cycling six weeks prior to breeding.

Criteria for synchronizing cows:
› Body Condition Score of ≥ 5 at calving
› Cows to be synchronized should have a mean postpartum interval of ≥ 40 days at the beginning of the protocol
› Each cow should be a minimum of 21 days postpartum at the time of Eazi-Breed™ CIDR® insertion
› Low incidence of calving difficulty

Where is the best place to give synchronization injections? What needle size should I use?
Synchronization drugs should be given in the muscle (IM), with the exception of LUTALYSE® Hi-Con which can be administered IM or subcutaneously. When administering synchronization drugs, I recommend using a 1-½ inch, 18-gauge needle. And people don’t often ask, but I always mention you should wear gloves when handling any synchronization drugs to avoid contact with skin.

Can I reuse CIDR® inserts?
CIDR® inserts are labeled as a one-time use item by the manufacturer, and I recommend following this guideline.
I know CIDR® inserts are one of the most expensive parts of a synchronization protocol, retailing at $10 to $12. It is tempting to cut that cost in half by using a CIDR® for a second time. The next time you are tempted to do this, ask yourself what another A.I. calf is worth to you. My guess is that it’s a lot more than $5 to $6.

Can I give vaccines/dewormer while I’ve got the cow in the chute and am inserting the CIDR®?
A pre-breeding vaccination program is an important part of an overall successful A.I. program. However, several studies have shown injection of naïve heifers with a modified live vaccine (MLV) around the time of breeding resulted in ovarian lesions and decreased pregnancy rates. Therefore, I recommend that all pre-breeding vaccinations be given at least 30 days prior to breeding.

While there isn’t any research that suggests administering dewormer at breeding will have a negative impact on fertility, I recommend doing that at least 30 days prior to breeding as well. The less stress you put on females around breeding time, the better your success. To achieve optimal results, it’s best to do as little as possible to the females during the synchronization and breeding process.

How long should I wait to move the cows after insemination?
The most critical time periods for embryonic development occur between day five, when the embryo begins its migration from the oviduct to the uterus, and day 42, when the embryo has made definitive attachment to the uterus. Research indicates shipping cows during this critical time in embryo development can cause a 10% decrease in pregnancy rates. The best time to move cattle is prior to insemination or days one to four post breeding. If you can’t move them within this time period, it’s best to wait until after day 45. To learn more about shipping cows during this critical time period, click here.

Despite what research might say, no single synchronization protocol fits every operation. Know your operation, follow the suggestions above and trust your gut. And if you ever have any other questions, remember I’m only a phone call away!

Friday, February 2, 2018

Give Calves a Push!

By: Suzanne Lois, Resale Product Advisor

A newborn calf’s first few hours on earth and how quickly it suckles down Mother Nature’s energy and protein drink, the dam’s colostrum, will likely determine how healthy it will be for the next few months. Colostrum provides the calf with two key components: antibodies and ENERGY, ENERGY, ENERGY!

Often not highlighted when talking about the first feeding of colostrum is the energy source it provides the calf. A newborn calf has limited storage of fat reserves; in fact, it doesn’t even have enough reserves to survive 24 hours in a stressful environment. In order for the immune system to work properly, energy is crucial.

Colostrum provides a jolt of energy similar to that of an energy drink. The colostral milkfat provides the required source of energy to help jumpstart a calf’s immune system. Calves should consume colostrum as soon as possible; however, we do encounter circumstances where the calf doesn’t have enough energy to get up and nurse. It could be for a number of reasons, including the calf being born in muddy, cold conditions, suffering from a hard calving or being born a twin. And, of course, there are always those circumstances where you wonder if the calf did or didn’t get up and suckle yet. So, what can you do to get the calf up and suckling? At GENEX, we suggest giving the calf a little “push.” Push™ calf nutritional paste, that is.

Push™ paste is made from high quality, pasteurized bovine colostrum and contains both globulin proteins and colostral fats found in colostrum. While it does not replace colostrum, it does provide plenty of energy and can help with immune stimulation at the cellular level. A tube of Push™ paste will provide a calf with enough nutrients to support energy needs for up to a 12-hour period, depending on the condition the calf is in. Those who have tried Push™ paste are amazed how
the product can increase a calf’s energy to help combat challenges it may experience in the first few hours of life.

A dam’s colostrum is nature’s perfect first meal, providing the necessary antibodies and energy to get
the calf off to the best possible start. Yet, sometimes calves need a little nudge to get started, so why not give a tube of Push™ calf nutritional paste?

Friday, January 26, 2018

Is Being a GENEX Delegate for You?

If you have been following along on our social media channels this week, you know it was GENEX Annual Meeting time. Perhaps you read some of the posts and wondered who our delegates were. If you are a GENEX member, they are just like you - farm men and women from across the U.S. who are willing to give a few days of their year to the governance of their cooperative. Want to know a little more about the process? Read on.

First we will start with the commitment. 
Delegates are elected yearly and attend a regional fall delegate meeting, where new cooperative information is shared and various topics are presented for input. GENEX is fortunate to be able to utilize the expertise of our delegates and have incorporated many suggestions and ideas into our plan of work.

In addition to the fall delegate meetings, delegates also participate in the annual meeting. This two-day event includes the business meeting, as well as a variety of educational breakout sessions. Take a look at our Facebook or Twitter accounts for more on what took place this year.
A speaker from DMI talks with delegates on protecting their farm from activists.
So who are our delegates?
I have been able to write about several of our delegates over the past couple of years. You may be interested to learn more about Ron Koetsier from California, Scott Erthum from Nebraska, or Alexa Kayhart from Vermont. I also recently interviewed Rachel Freund from Connecticut. You can find that article in the January Horizons, Dairy Edition on pages 20 and 21.

While our delegate are from across the country and appear to be very diverse, they are all very similar in their desire to help the cooperative they are a part of. All of the ones I have interviewed will also tell you they feel they get a tremendous return on their investment as well. Being able to grow their network and learning more about the cooperative are probably two of the biggest rewards these men and women receive.

Is it your time?
Now that you know more about how the governance of your cooperative functions, are you ready to help as well? Contact Terri Dallas, VP of Communications at